In 1940, the Ladies community Club of Walnut Grove, (later called the "Ladie's Guild") was formed and started a Sunday School for the community children. It first met in the Community Hall behind the old Post Office and classes were held in every corner of the hall. Teaching staff included Dorcys Burchell, Mary Lou Judy, Dixie Malcolm, Janet Bliss and Isabel Anderson. By 1942, Rev. Francis Boelter, Pastor of the Community Church of Sacramento was helping advise the Walnut Grove Sunday School. He agreed to conduct services the last Sunday of every month in the old brick school, now the Jean Harvie Community Center. Within a few years, Rev. Boelter took a position as professor at Westmar College in Iowa, Rev. S.E. Schroeder, pastor of the Evangelical church in Point Pleasant, was appointed to serve in Walnut Grove as well.
The need for a community church building grew as the new body of believers grew, and on May 6, 1946 after the end of the Second World War, the first general meeting was held to discuss plans to organize a community church beginning with building the sanctuary. All protestants in the area were invited to attend, and during the meeting, the Board of Trustees for the Community Church corporation was formed with William P. Darsie as chairperson. A fundraising goal of $30,000 was set, and Professional fundraiser Mortimer Stetson of San Carlos was obtained as a consultant. Though the Evangelical United Brethren Church wanted to establish a church in Walnut Grove, since they had already been involved with the congregants of Walnut Grove, members desired to be part of a larger denomination with a broader appeal. Several members often attended Fremont Presbyterian Church, (then located on J Street in Sacramento.) Dorcys Burchell approached the Pastor who advised her on affiliation. She and Mary Lou Judy conducted a survey among protestants in the area and received a very favorable response.
In 1947, Rev. Schroeder was reassigned to Santa Ana, and an opportunity was opened to obtain the services of Alan Breese Smith, a Presbyterian Seminar Student who was a good organizer and administrator. Under his leadership, officers were elected, fundraising began and affiliation with the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A was established by secret ballot. He was ordained in 1949 and became the full time pastor of the church. The Walnut Grove Community Presbyterian Church was officially formed on April 9, 1951, with the acceptance of its charter by the Presbytery of Sacramento. A building committee was established and Helen and Myron Brown donated five acres of open land for the church on the edge of Clampett Tract, on the west side of the Sacramento River. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 29, 1951 and several items were placed in the corner stone, including Rev. Smith's bible which he had carried with him in the Pacific during World War II.
During construction under Chairperson/Contractor William Schauer, architectural chairperson Zella Brown and consulting artist Jo Lyman were busy overseeing the interior design, a task that took them all over the state of CA with sketchpad in hand for ideas. The finest redwood was selected for the inside walls, and furnishings purchased. Twenty four leaded glass windows originally from the Berkeley Institute for the Blind, Deaf and Mute and were discovered in a salvage yard. Made of early Victorian highly desirable glass, the windows were in disrepair, so Zella arranged for leaded/stained glass craftsman Harold Cummings to remake the eight windows now in the sanctuary and those the Narthex. The remaining glass was given to the artist as compensation for his services. Local Blacksmiths Thomas R. and his son, Robert L. Cummings, not related to the stained glass artist handcrafted the interior iron supports for the trusses and other ironwork for the grounds. Charles Malcolm provided plumbing, Lyman B. Wright provided all electrical work, and Bill and Hada Butchey obtained the bell for the steeple from a ranch in the Pierson District behind Courtland where it had been used to call ranch hands to meals for years. Its clear tone now calls God's people to the feast of celebration of His body.
The church building was completed in February, 1952, and was dedicated on Sunday, March 16th with Dr. Jessie Baird, President of San Francisco Theological Seminary giving the sermon. On April 13th, the first Easter celebration was held in the new sanctuary, and the Sacrament of Infant Baptism was held for nine children. Additions and enhancements continued to be made by the new congregation members, elders and deacons. Chairpersons of Landscaping, Emma Pratt and Allena Mealer worked on planning, establishing and watering new shrubs and plants by hand for three years until water pipes could be connected. The Ladies Guild raised $4,700 to purchase the pipe organ, which was custom designed and built by Hillgreen, Land and Company of Ohio. The organ was dedicated on Sunday, October 12, 1952. Furnishings for the chancel were donated to honor Mr. and Mrs. Russell Graham's son, who died at age 30. The painting of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane is a memorial to Hilda Schauer who died September 13, 1952, and furnishings. The first Christmas Candlelight Service was held, on Christmas Eve, 1952, and continues to be a community favorite to this day.
In 1953, Rev. Smith took an assignment in Kansas, and the new Pastor, Rev. Kenneth Craig was ordained and installed on June 1 of that same year. During his tenure, plans to build a social hall and classrooms were developed and in July, 1955, the young church family broke ground for the new hall with the name "Koinonia" chosen for it as suggested by pastor Craig, because the name in Greek means "fellowship." Chairperson Darrell Mealer headed the building committee and Allena Mealer served as architectural chairperson. William Schauer and his crew supplied all labor as a donation, just as he did for the church sanctuary. In April of 1956, both Koinonia Hall and the Sunday school rooms were dedicated at a special service with Dr. E.G. Williams, Executive for the Sacramento Presbytery, preaching. The music program was provided by volunteer musicians and directors who dedicated their talents and time to fill the sanctuary with songs of praise the the Lord. Organist Robert James donated his talents for more than 40 years and Debbie Cummings-Phulps donated her talents as Choir Director for almost as many, plus many multi-talented people since the church was built.
The children's programs began first in the formation of the Walnut Grove Community Church. The Ladies Guild began the first Sunday School for all Christian community children. Beginning in 1951, the Japanese Methodist Church, the Locke Baptist Church and the Community Presbyterian Church held a joint Vacation Bible School, each location hosting a certain age group. The first year there were 101 children in attendance. Rev. Boelter of the Evangelical Church of America advised the Sunday School and then agreed to conduct services the last Sunday of every month, marking the beginning of Christian families gathering for worship services. The first Vacation Bible School was held in 1950 jointly with the Japanese Methodist and Locke Baptist families. The program still operates through the Walnut Grove Community Church today (when not cancelled by a pandemic), by volunteers just as it has since 1950.
The Covid-19 Pandemic closed the doors of the church, so the congregation went online for Sunday Services, which to this day are ongoing. We look forward to opening the doors once the state restrictions are lifted and we can gather together as a church family once again. Regular Sunday services will be held at 9:30 a.m. every Sunday, and we will welcome back our Chancel Choir in November, 2021. We are currently seeking a Clerk of Session for our Board of Session, and more Deacons for the Deacon's Ministry. We pray for new members and those who would fill these positions!
Presbyterianism in a wide sense is the system of church government by representative assemblies called presbyteries, in opposition to government by bishops (episcopal system), or by congregations (congregationalism). In its strict sense, Presbyterianism is the name given to one of the groups of ecclesiastical bodies that represent the features of Protestantism emphasized by French lawyer John Calvin (1509-1564), whose writings crystallized much of the Reformed thinking that came before him. The most important standards of orthodox Presbyterianism are the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms of 1647. The chief distinctive features set forth in the Westminster declarations of belief are Presbyterian church government, Calvinistic theology, and the absence of prescribed forms of worship. Presbyterians trace their history to the 16th century and the Protestant Reformation.
Presbyterians were among the earliest Reformed immigrants to America. They settled up and down the East Coast, and began to push westward into the American wilderness, founding congregations as early as the 1630s. In 1706, seven Presbyterian ministers formed the first Presbyterian presbytery in the New World. The clergy assumed the freedom to organize and the right to worship, preach, teach, and administer the sacraments. Growing population and immigration prompted the presbytery to organize a synod in 1717, with four constituent presbyteries.
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